CBD For Cramps
What are cramps? There are many different types.
Muscle cramps are defined as sudden muscle contractions often accompanied by chronic pain. These cramps likely develop in response to physical factors: muscle strain, inactivity, and dehydration, amongst others. Muscle cramps disproportionately affect athletes, the elderly, those who are pregnant, and those who are overweight.
Menstrual cramps, known as dysmenorrhea, are characterized by throbbing or cramping sensations in the lower abdomen. Women begin to experience these cramps before and during their period. According to the Mayo Clinic, "For some women, the discomfort is annoying. For others, menstrual cramps can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities." Menstrual cramps may bring about severe bouts of chronic pain, nausea, and lightheadedness that can last days, with pain levels peaking after about 24 hours.
What do these types of cramps have in common? Chronic pain. And according to research in Best Practice & Research Clinical Anesthesiology, this type of pain is defined as "Recurrent or constant pain that lasts or recurs for longer than three months and can result in disability, suffering, and a physical disturbance."
Whether you suffer from muscle or menstrual cramps, one thing is for certain: you have options for overcoming your cramps! Some patients have been using CBD for cramps—which is anecdotal evidence, we recognize—in order to dispel chronic pain and other symptoms at the source. It all comes down to your endocannabinoid system, a region of the brain responsible for enacting CBD's effects.
Keep in mind: that no scientific studies have evaluated the efficacy of CBD treatments on cramping, specifically. More clinical research is required to fully understand how cannabinoids like CBD and THC affect muscle cramps and beyond. However, CBD is highly effective at fighting chronic pain, a signature aspect of all types of cramping.
Chronic Pain And How We've Approached It
Cramps and chronic pain share a variety of clinical similarities. Namely: both come about in response to any number of physiological disturbances. There is no singular root cause for cramping, and there is no singular root cause for chronic pain.
However, pain relief mitigation techniques allow patients to overcome the pain associated with cramping in the first place. This is especially effective when fighting muscle or menstrual cramps.
Up until now, how has humanity fought afflictions of chronic pain and—by extension—cramping? According to the Best Practice & Research Clinical Anesthesiology report, "Over the last 25 years, there has been a concerning increase in treating chronic pain that is not related to cancer pain with opioids as recommended by the World Health Organization's (WHO) analgesic ladder."
Unfortunately, according to that same scientific journal, "In 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that opioids were involved in over 69.5% of all drug overdose deaths…Therefore, prescribing opioids for chronic pain can be dangerous due to the physical dependence and risk for addiction and possible overdose for chronic pain patients."
Because current medicinal standards only account for a reduction in pain and do not consider the patient's quality of life or well-being, maybe it's time we moved on from opioids as a treatment for cramping and chronic pain? These prescription drugs are often riddled with side effects. They might reduce your chronic pain, but at what cost?
Researchers seem to agree. Best Practice & Research Anesthesiology scientists state, "Related to the widespread and complicated nature of chronic pain, effective interventions and treatments need to be examined."
We completely agree. But what alternative therapies could be used to fight cramping and chronic pain?
CBD For Chronic Pain: Step 1 in Mitigating Cramps
What you need to know:
According to researchers, "With recent studies, CBD has shown promise in the setting of chronic, neuropathic, and possible inflammatory pain. Its potential use as an antispasmodic and analgesic that works across various different diagnoses gives it multiple potential uses."
We mentioned earlier that this phenomenon has primarily to do with your endocannabinoid system, a region of the nervous system where CBD does its job inside your body, enabling its therapeutic potential. The endocannabinoid system contains various parts, but let's focus solely on two fundamental pieces for now:
- CB1 Receptors: "have a strong presence in the central nervous system (CNS), particularly in regions of the midbrain and spinal cord that are both responsible for pain perception."
- CB2 Receptors: "more often associated with the immune system, and antagonistic effects on these receptors demonstrate a role in the inhibition of the inflammatory response," enacting CBD's renowned anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD has been observed to activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors in unique ways. Scientifically speaking, this would account for the cannabinoid's pain relief properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and additional therapeutic potential for mental health conditions, physiological ailments, and more.
According to the Center for the Advancement of Health (CFAH), when discussing menstrual cramps, "There are several ways to relieve menstrual cramps. Many women find help in natural remedies, such as CBD oil." And although the CFAH supports the use of CBD for menstrual cramps, it recognizes this is not the most popular option out there: "The most often picked therapy for menstrual cramps is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These painkillers inhibit the release of enzymes that trigger inflammation in the body."
NSAIDs are widely available over-the-counter, but they come with a caveat specific to menstrual cramps. As stated by the CFAH, "NSAIDs curb pain and inflammation by blocking the enzyme COX-2. However, they also block the COX-1 enzyme, which isn't related to inflammation and pain." The COX-1 enzyme is responsible for maintaining the health of the stomach lining and intestines.
The CFAH continues, "According to studies, CBD is the inhibitor of the COX-2, but it has no affinity to the COX-1 enzyme. By focusing solely on the COX-2, CBD can reduce inflammation without causing stomach irritation and other side effects linked to typical over-the-counter pain relievers."
How To Effectively Take CBD For Cramps
Historical fun fact: Queen Victoria was reportedly prescribed cannabis by her chief physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, circa 1890, in order to combat menstrual cramps. Once upon a time, cannabinoids like CBD and THC were included in a variety of pain relief medications. Today, we are only beginning to undo the political roadblocks placed on medicinal cannabis research. But every year we "discover" new ways to use cannabis in healthy and effective ways—even if the Queen already knew about CBD for cramps some 130 years ago!
But what about your cramps, no matter the kind? We have recommendations for all types of cramps, pain, and other related ailments.
CBD Products For Muscle Cramping And General Pain
Whether you're an athlete or experiencing a serious case of getting older, we have just the right CBD formulations to fight off chronic cramping!
You must first pinpoint where you are experiencing cramps. Different CBD products work best for different types of pain and cramping. For example, CBD topicals containing menthol or natural extracts like Arnica Montana utilize botanical properties to ease deep muscle pain. With CBD balms or lotions, apply cannabinoids directly to the area of your body experiencing a cramp or chronic pain.
CBD oil tinctures, on the other hand, are ideal for targeting unlocalized cramps (pain that cannot be attributed directly to one spot on the body). They come in any number of flavors, strengths, and price ranges. Tinctures are also available in different formulations:
- Full Spectrum (up to 0.3% THC)
- Broad Spectrum (THC-free)
- CBD isolate (pure CBD, also THC-free)
For athletes or those who generally don't get enough liquids throughout the day, we also highly recommend CBD-infused drinks. Products like CBD water enhancers or energy-boosting teas can increase your hydration levels, an important factor in fighting cramps. Plus, these CBD drinks can be combined with stretching, exercise, or other cannabis-derived products for the best cramp-relieving results!
The Best CBD For Menstrual Cramps
CBD for menstrual cramps follows similar advice. However, we recognize menstrual cramps are often more severe, painful, and debilitating than your average muscle cramps. Therefore, we recommend directly applying a high-strength CBD topical to your lower abdomen for menstrual cramps. This allows the CBD molecules (and other pain-relieving infusions) to target the uterus and surrounding areas, fighting inflammation and other factors that make cramping more bearable.
Menstrual cramping has an additional negative effect on the digestive tract. This comes in the form of extreme stomach pain or discomfort, irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, and more. Luckily, anecdotal reports show that some women have success with CBD gummies. Not only are these cannabinoid treats delicious, but they introduce CBD molecules directly to the digestive tract, acting on CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the region.
In addition, according to the CFAH, "Another way to administer CBD for menstrual cramps is through the vaginal and rectal walls. These parts of the body absorb everything very rapidly by avoiding the digestive tract and liver…Using a CBD suppository to relieve menstrual cramps could result in fast relief from period pain and inflammation."
Is CBD For Cramps Right For You?
Cramping and chronic pain, no matter the type, can be life-altering. According to Best Practice & Research Clinical Anesthesiology researchers, "Chronic pain can cause a serious physical disability for many patients that results in chronic suffering. Causes of chronic pain are multifaceted, often involving physical, social, and psychological entities."
Luckily, those same researchers say, "CBD is a promising area for the treatment of chronic pain, and further studies need to be performed to evaluate the role of CBD in chronic pain management." This includes research into CBD's relationship with inflammation (already a hot topic of medicinal research), cramping, menstrual cramping, and beyond!
Have you taken CBD for cramping, specifically? Let us know in the comments! We're always happy to connect about our favorite cannabinoid, already fighting cramps in a wide variety of patients.